Feinstein, Reid defend Lake Tahoe’s need for money
Step up to the plate and write the protection of Lake Tahoe into the federal budget, said Sen. Harry Reid on Sunday morning at an environmental summit atop Heavenly Ski Resort.
Reid arrived late and spoke for a short time, but he sent a strong message to President Bush.
“The state of California and Nevada have really done their fair share, but the federal government has not done its fair share,” said Reid, D-Nev. “We need money to be placed in the federal budget so (Sen.) Dianne (Feinstein) and I don’t have to continue to beg and borrow. Put it on paper — that’s what we need.
“We’ve done a lot, but it will never happen unless we get the president’s approval for what we’re trying to do.
“I’m not trying to make this a partisan issue, I’d say this to whoever was president … but in the last two years of Clinton’s presidency we had money in the budget.”
Feinstein led this year’s summit, the fifth environmental meeting focused on the lake to be held since the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum.
She spoke about vacationing at Lake Tahoe in the 1940s and 1950s when the lake was clear to about 140 feet. Feinstein said now lake clarity reaches about 70 feet because of an increase in the use of automobiles, road widening, commercial development and the number of visitors.
“So we’ve got to double our energies to be good stewards,” the California Democrat said. “We must stay the course to protect the clarity of Lake Tahoe.”
To make sure federal money continues to fund projects at the basin, Feinstein said the House and the Senate need to know Tahoe is a community that has come together to protect the lake.
“I intend to stay the course,” she said, softly pounding the lectern. “I will be here eight years from today and we will get this job done.”
The target date to implement more than 900 Environmental Improvement Program projects designed to help protect the lake is 2010. The program, created in 1998, has a prescribed budget of $908 million.
Thus far, the basin has received $435 million for environmental projects from a variety of places. California has allotted $203 million; the federal government appropriated $102 million; Nevada has provided $45 million, and local government and the private sector have each set aside $41 million.
Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, and Steve Teshara, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance, also spoke at the summit. They are co-chairs of the Lake Tahoe Transportation and Water Quality Coalition. Both took the opportunity to ask for more federal dollars.
Teshara said transportation projects at the basin are in dire need of money. Nason emphasized a need for the Bush administration to pay more attention to Lake Tahoe.
“This year, for the first time, federal appropriations approached their proper level for the Environmental Improvement Program,” Nason said.
The federal government’s financial commitment to Lake Tahoe was mapped by the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000. It recommended the federal government appropriate $30 million a year for 10 years to protect the lake.
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at email@example.com
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